This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Uy, who is currently working as a nursery teacher in the ECC.
She was nominated by her peers for her work in bringing the “Third Teacher” into the classrooms at Mountainside.
What is the “Third Teacher” you ask?
Well, it actually was coined from a small town in Italy, called Reggio Emilia, where they have a constructivist, school based in play.
There are three teachers in this type of school, where the first teacher is the teacher, the second is the parent and the third…
Students, admin…no it is actually the environment.
Yes, the environment is the third teacher as it teaches the students new things on a daily basis.
1. What did you want your students to know or understand?
That the classroom is really just an extension of the home. I wanted both parents and children to feel cozy, comfortable, and safe. A place where their uniqueness will be appreciated.
You can actually see this when you enter my room as the first thing you enter is the family space. It is all about them. A bookcase, sofa, and plants.
Additionally, I placed the cubbies in the back and filled the space in between with a lot of COOL stuff. However, the most important element is the hook…the fish tank. It always faces the door, as it acts like a magnet for them to enter the room. There are lights, different color objects, and of course the fish.
The children are naturally attracted to it!
2. What skills did you want your students to gain?
Two main things.
I put a huge emphasis in the first few weeks that it is ok to touch everything. I tell them this is your space, go for it! Build a city, stand on the table…I want them to be comfortable.
Everything is based is sensorial and tactile as well. This is so important for this age group (2.5-5) as they learn so much through their five senses.
For example, this week we put out dried coffee out on a table and have on average about 5-6 kids who play with it every day. They grab it, let it fall through their fingers, and squish it in their hands. However, the most important element is the smell.
This is an element which was not present in the first semester, as there was only sand.
Second, collaboration and communication.
I want kids to collaborate and communicate, negotiate with friends in whatever space they are in the room.
I actually saw this the first time I entered a “Third Teacher “classroom where 3-years old were respecting each other, not screaming and fighting.
I asked, “How did you do this?”
They responded it was taught to them last year when they were 2-years old.
I was hooked and wanted this in my classrooms.
3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?
I would literally follow a book. A home center, a block center…a scripted way to arrange, my room.
It was very teacher centered and I set everything up without knowing the competencies of the children in advance.
I was already telling the students and parents that “this is my room.”
Back then I really did not have a clear philosophy but knew I wanted the kids to have ownership of learning.
So the search was on…
4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?
I actually trained at a Reggio Emilia inspired school in Los Angeles.
I was able to soak in so much information which gave me a good start but kept growing and modifying by consuming more resources, but also experimenting in my classroom every year.
Today, I come in every August to set up and literally get down on all fours so I can see what my future students will see.
I’ve become intentional in setting up their learning space – whilst making sure that the curriculum goals are met. It’s a delicate balance. 🙂
I love the Constructivist model of learning and believe it empowers kids. It puts them in the forefront and makes them the center of the learning.
Again, I want them to not see a classroom, but an extension of the home.
Cozy, comfortable, and safe.
This enables Children to be calm so they can one, communicate, but two, collaborate with each other.
This produces amazing results in their learning.
Lastly, the environment itself has changed my perspective as a teacher. I have learned how to listen and respect their thinking – so I can enable them to express their thoughts visible.
Designs for Living and Learning by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter